What parents don’t wring their hands while wondering at what ages their little darlings will take the sexual plunge? Those who experiment too young run the expensive risks of STD’s and of multiple heart-wrenching–and depression-engendering–
A recent sex study, published in Psychological Science (a journal of the Association for Psychological Science), answered some of these concerns. The study was led by University of Texas (at Austin) psychological scientist Paige Harden, who went over responses from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. These responses were taken from “1659 same-sex sibling pairs”–pairs that were tracked from around age 16 to age 29. Interviews uncovered the time periods during which the adolescents had first had sexual intercourse: “Early intercourse” was classified as “younger than 15”; “On-Time” was “ages 15-19”; “Older than 19” was labeled “Late intercourse.”
Previous research had discovered what Ms. Harden’s study did–Experiencing first intercourse after age 19 (“Late”) was “associated with higher educational attainment and higher household income in adulthood.” And, later-age intercourse was linked to remaining unmarried (at age 29), and having “fewer romantic partners.”
For those Study-of-Adolescent-Health participants who were married or co-habiting and past age 19, delaying sex initially had led to “significantly lower levels of relationship dissatisfaction.” These results occurred regardless of participants’: 1) education and income levels, 2) weight, 3) attractiveness, 4) religious convictions, and 5) previous dating experience.
Although more studies are needed to explain why those who began having sex later claimed greater relationship happiness later, researcher Harden guessed that the adolescents who waited: 1) Experienced “secure attachment” to their parents, and therefore, could emotionally afford to take their time and be “pickier” about partner type, 2) Avoided the dating violence common to earlier partnering, so by the time they wanted to be “serious,” they gravitated towards stable partners, 3) Had built up “cognitive and emotional maturity,” which resulted in “more effective relationship skills,” than those displayed by teenagers.
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